danieLion wrote:So my purpose was and is to engage in a free exchange of ideas (here, I'm influenced by J.S. MIll and Paul Feyerabend) about these important issues. I don't know if originalism is "in error" and that's why I avoided the term. I am, however, perplexed by how anyone could make such a strong claim without being there themselves (a question still not answered to my satisfaction and looking like it probably won't be).
I guess I would argue that while we can't know what the Buddha's original teachings were in a concerete, verificationist sense, it is absolutely reasonable to say that the assumption of their general
accuracy is the best model that fits the data, i.e. assuming the teachings attributed throughout time to a historical figure referred to as the Buddha are in fact related in a "strong" sense to his actual teachings is the best way to make sense of the data we have. The other assumptions we could possibly make - that the suttas as we have them represent a massive, intentional case of fraud, that through sloppy recording or transmission they have become meaningless, or that they refer back to a figure that did not actually exist, rendering them almost a simulacra in themselves - are not nearly as reasonable or pragmatically useful models by which to relate to the suttas.
The same goes for my concerns about rebirth. I don't know if it's "unreasonable." But I am concerned about teachers presenting it in a way that turns off otherwise genuine inquirers into Buddhism. I never said I "support rebirth" or "I don't support rebirth." I said I'm keeping an open mind (an application of critical thinking about it) and that I will continually test it in concert with what faith/confidence I do have in the Buddha with the hope of further verifying the validity of my faith.
I don't think anyone thinks that an inquiry into Buddhism cannot absolutely be made in earnest without an accompanying assumption of rebirth. The problem is that many monks and lay teachers honestly believe, either through scholarship into the doctrines of Right View or through personal experience gained by teaching meditators of different philosophies and temperaments, that attempting to present meditation (or Buddhism in general) without a presupposition of rebirth, at least as a moral framework, is in the end an unhelpful and almost Sisyphean task. I used the analogy of someone attempting to study evolutionary biology without an understanding of the Second Law of Thermodynamics; it may not immediately hinder their efforts, but the concept is built implicitly into the structure of the discipline. If one is teaching a method that relies, even only tangentially, on a set of philosophical assumptions, it might be best to "turn off" someone whose antipathy towards those assumptions renders their adoption, at least, again, as a moral framework, impossible.
I never said I believe in "the authority of the suttas," either, nor did I mention them in terms of "history." When I study the suttas, I do investigate (again, guided by my verificationist faith in the Buddha) and explore and bring historical scholarship into to it as much as possible to aid me. As an ultimate authority, the suttas are not reliable, as historical-critical methods (a la Analayo et al) have highlighted. I do hope and desire, however, to find a corpus of suttas that best reflect the message of the Buddha as close to his "original" teachings as possible. But even the term "original" in this sense can be misleading because the Buddha changed his mind on occasion, tailored his teachings to individuals and contexts, and, along with other arahants, admitted to making mistakes. So if by "original" we mean something static, I cannot accept that, for the Buddha was a dyanamic thinker and teacher, as were many of his disciples. The complexity of investigating in this way is further deepened by the facts of textual corruptions, inconsistencies, and a schismatic climate all ready evident in the parisa and sangha during the Buddha's times. In fact, I suspect that the self-refuge passages are an indication of the Buddha's own exasperation with attempts of those around him to pin him down or twist his message to suit their own biases.
I absolutely agree. Any attempts to render the suttas infallible or even "accurate" is silly; Paññobhāsa Bhikkhu, for example, estimates that roughly 10% of the suttas refer to direct statements made by the Buddha himself. But there is a huge difference between seeing the Canon as a collection of historical records referring to a real but often-changing teaching, while applying various methodologies in order to determine what constitutes the most accurate heartwood, and tossing the whole thing out and declaring a kind of epistemological anarchism (in the "eel-wriggling" sense, not Feyerabend's) or hand-wringing indecision. I am not implying that you are doing this, be clear; I am just stating that the two extremes - slavish obedience to an imperfect collection of scriptures and skepticism that renders all possible truths about the Buddha as completely, irreparably hidden behind a vale of time - are both not only detrimental to practice but also unjustified from a scholarly position.
At least one other poster here agrees that this is a subtext of some modern teachers. But the my choice of the word "seems" here is of no small importance. Like I said, I'm trying to understand another's perspective. Yes, the Buddha believed in rebirth, but he didn't demand others do so.
It's not simply that he believed it, but instead that he spent much of his time formulating a specific doctrine of rebirth that played a large part of his Dhamma. Transmigration is affirmed in the First Noble Truth, for example. It wasn't tangential. So yes, you're right that the Buddha didn't demand it from his followers; that doesn't mean, however, that he didn't consider it a very wholesome and helpful belief to hold.
There is no such thing as Right Rebirth in the Noble Eight Fold Path, and it is not part of the bodhipakkhiyadhamma either.
I'm sorry, but I disagree. Right View includes
denial of annihilationism. I don't believe that such a discrepancy is going to immediately torpedo someone's practice, but I do think that it will be a detriment.
I want to make it clear that, of all divergent views, a disbelief in rebirth is about the least bothersome to me. I think, for example, that a belief in a Creator God or a permanent self is essentially a brick wall to many a meditation practice. In comparison, rebirth is just a particularly rough speed bump.
Having said that, would you beleive that I want to beleive--and not only that, if rebirth is knowable beyond doubt, I want that too? But even if I did come to know for myself, how could I elminate the possibilty that what I experienced was not a product of my imagination influenced by the Buddha's and other Buddhists beliefs in rebirth? When folks in the suttas gain such knowledge it's an inner-vision experience. I have lots of inner experiences that seem very persuasive at the time but get contradicted in the future. How would knowledge of rebirth be any different? Believe it or not, I'm slowly starting to think there might be something to rebirth, but I'm cautious and concerned lest I end up self-deluded in yet one more way.
This is a great approach to the situation! I hope you don't think that I claim to know
that rebirth is true. In terms of personal experience regarding knowledge of rebirth, I have essentially zip. I believe in rebirth, or at least place my confidence it the likelihood of its accuracy, because I think it's a model that is praised by the wise and fits well with what I do know about my mind and its experience. I guess the thing I'd like to highlight is that there is a middle ground between pure agnosticism and blind acceptance, and that's where I believe Buddhists should fall. We can have doubts, and be unsure, and be open and honest about those things, without tossing up our hands and claiming that such an important issue is unknowable; I don't think we have that luxury should we really hope to progress on the path.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.
Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.
His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta
Stuff I write about things.